Los Angeles-based indie rock band Local Natives stopped by the heralded Union Transfer rock club April 4 to perform in front of a sold-out crowd of nearly 1,000 fans. The line from the entrance wrapped around the block as people eagerly waited in the brisk spring evening to get inside the venue. When the doors finally opened at 8 p.m., patrons streamed in to fill both the upper balconies and the valuable real estate right in front of the stage. By the end of the night, hundreds of ecstatic concert-goers headed off into the night thinking of the incredible and memorable headlining performance they had just witnessed.
The night got underway a little after 9 p.m. with another group from the Los Angeles area, the dream-pop group Superhumanoids. The four-piece band is anchored by Cameron Perkins, Max St. John and lead vocalist Sarah Chernoff. Over the course of a roughly 30-minute set, Superhumanoids played a brand of music reminiscent of the ‘80s new wave style, the type of music that wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack of a John Hughes movie. The crowd even got a taste of the band’s upcoming album “Exhibitionists” with “Geri,” which featured a catchy synth beat. At the end of their set, Perkins thanked both the crowd and Local Natives for bringing them on tour. With the opening act over, fans would have to wait almost an hour for the main event, Local Natives.
Finally, at almost half past 10, the band came onstage to a roar of applause and David Bowie’s “Young Americans” playing through the speakers. They took to their instruments in a quick fashion and launched right into “You & I,” the first track of their new album “Hummingbird.” The song showcased the group’s rich vocal harmonies, which are used in a way similar to Fleet Foxes. After “Breakers,” the lead single from “Hummingbird,” the band stopped to thank the crowd. Singer and keyboardist Kelcey Ayer commented, “We always love coming to Philly.” Then guitarist Taylor Rice started to pluck away the opening riff to “Wide Eyes,” a hit song from the band’s 2009 debut album, “Gorilla Manor.”
From there, Local Natives played some more mellow tracks such as “Ceilings” before playing “Shapeshifter” from “Gorilla Manor.” Ayer prefaced the song by saying that the band first played it live in Philadelphia at the First Unitarian Church. When the chorus came around, guitarist Ryan Hahn joined in along with what seemed like most of the crowd. After that was “Heavy Feet,” another hit from “Hummingbird.” It really showcased the drumming of Matt Frazier, who creates some great rhythms with his energetic style. Most of the songs on “Hummingbird” are more introspective and come across as somber. Two of the best examples of this are “Mt. Washington” and “Colombia.” “Colombia,” in particular, was the most emotionally charged song of the night. Ayer picked up a guitar to sing the song he wrote about his mother passing away. When he sang his mother’s name near the end of the song, audience members could see the emotions contort his face and couldn’t help but relate to similar experiences they may have had themselves.
But those melancholy feelings wouldn’t last for long, as the next two songs were fan favorites, “World News” and “Airplanes.” These two upbeat sing-alongs really brought the crowd’s energy level to a whole new tier, as the whole building seemed to try to join in with the harmonies of the choruses. The band then exited the stage to thunderous applause. Within minutes they were back and playing “Wooly Mammoth,” another song that features Frazier’s wild-sounding beats. Local Natives knew that they had the audience right where they wanted them as they then played “Who Knows Who Cares,” another high-energy hit from “Gorilla Manor.” But any true fan knew that the band always saves its best for last in the form of its perennial closer, “Sun Hands.”
The crowd began to work into a frenzy as the song began to build and build into an almost tribal fury. However, moments before the climax of the song, Hahn brought the band to a halt when he noticed that a young lady in the front row had fainted. Rice immediately brought her some water bottles and asked how she was before getting back up to the microphone to say she was all right and was going to stick it out “like a true rocker.” Then both the band and the crowd didn’t miss a beat as they ratcheted up the intensity before the best 10 seconds of the song, when everyone stops playing and screams out, “And when I can feel with my sun hands, I promise not to lose her again,” twice before just plain jamming out. It was an awesome end to a spectacular show. Local Natives gave everyone in Union Transfer a concert experience that was well worth the price of admission.